River Nomads

As our narrow pirogue slipped through the Niger River, I looked out across the calm water reflecting the rosy hue of the evening sky. In the distance, four large pirogues glided silently towards us. Unlike our open passenger boat, these ones were piled high with sacks, buckets, goats, chickens, and one even had a motorcycleContinue reading “River Nomads”

Camel Racing

The Shiriken, or camel festival, takes place every Spring in Akoubounou, Niger – a small town near Abalak in the western part of the country. Tuaregs from the region gather for horse and camel racing, tende music and dancing, Tuareg blues under the stars, and people watching. Community leaders established the festival as a wayContinue reading “Camel Racing”

Agadez’s Grand Mosque

Entering the minaret, you crouch on all fours to pass through a small doorway. Grains of sand stick to your hands and bare feet as you crawl up the unevenly spaced dry mud stairs. It is pitch black. As you twist your way up the tight turns, bats take flight, skimming your shoulders and theContinue reading “Agadez’s Grand Mosque”

Djibo Boureima: Shop- keeper

I step into the shop made of metal sheets welded together. A clean-shaven man with a wide smile waves at me from his fortress of shelves piled high with candy bars, biscuits, cookies, 50 CFA bags of peanuts, and water bottles. Tinny music from a small T.V. perched atop a refrigerator by the door fillsContinue reading “Djibo Boureima: Shop- keeper”

Niamey Flood

Heavy rains across the Sahel have resulted in flooding along the Niger River. Local papers have reported at least 43 deaths and the destruction of thousands of homes and farms in affected areas. Several neighborhoods in Niamey, the capital, have been submerged since August 19th. Families are living at schools and mosques, surviving with whateverContinue reading “Niamey Flood”

Men Who Wear the Veil

During my recent trip to the Aïr Mountains of northern Niger, Tuareg musicians welcomed us to Timia, an isolated oasis town nestled between steep mountains. According to Tuareg custom, men begin “wearing the veil” at age 18 to protect themselves from evil djinns, or spirits, that enter the body through the mouth. Conversely, a woman’sContinue reading “Men Who Wear the Veil”

What to Do in Niamey, Niger

Niamey may not be full of world-famous monuments, but its appeal lies in opportunities to experience everyday life in Niger. If you are prepared to go beyond sipping beers on the terrace of the Grand Hotel, any of the following suggestions will lead you to discoveries that will only deepen your appreciation of this mellowContinue reading “What to Do in Niamey, Niger”

Street Vendors of Niamey

In Niamey, capital of Niger, commerce is king. Driving down the road you see everything from shoe-shine boys to strobe lit storefronts selling jeans and polo shirts. But the entrepreneurs who captivate me the most are the people who carry their products through the neighborhoods, crisscrossing the city’s sandy roads in the hopes of capitalizingContinue reading “Street Vendors of Niamey”

Fiction: Coming Home from the Coast

I can feel the rumble of the road along my back through the solid sacks of grain. Above me, a silvery morning sky. The flat, scrubby tops of the familiar plateaus, the Three Sisters, loom into view on my left. The cool brown water of the Niger slips by on the right. We’re almost toContinue reading “Fiction: Coming Home from the Coast”